Every dog owner will tell you that the well-being of their canine friend is of utmost importance. There is, however, more to it than just the owner’s wish for their dog to be happy. Your dog’s well-being is also your legal duty, and every state has set rules that have to be met.
One hot issue that is debated heavily is whether dogs should be expected to live in outside kennels only. Some argue that this is not a good way to keep your dogs, while others argue that as long as the dog has a warm and safe place to sleep that is also sheltered from the elements, and there is access to fresh food and water, it’s more than acceptable to keep your dog outside.
But let's look at this logistically, can dogs actually live outside in kennels?
Signs a Dog Living in an Outdoor Kennel Will Show
In order to provide the best possible living conditions to your dog, you need to take your dog’s breed into account. Some breeds are best suited for indoors while some are amenable to outdoor environments. Even if they are of mixed breed, oftentimes, you can tell what particular breeds might be hiding in your mix.
If you wish to determine whether your dog is actually happy and content in their outside kennel, look for the following signs:
Tail wagging – a wagging tail is the surest sign of a happy dog, so pay close attention to how your dog is behaving inside the kennel.
Jumping up – your dog will easily engage in playing and walks, and often jump around and run if they are happy. This jumping is often referred to as dancing.
Head tilting – another sign of a content and happy dog is the playfully tilting of their head while having a relaxed mouth and ears.
Neutral ear pose – when your dog is content and happy, their ears will be in their default “at ease” pose.
If your dog is stressed out about their outside kennel, you will notice them showing the following signs:
Barking – your dog wants you to know that something is not right and that they feel threatened, alone, or stressed because they are outside all the time.
Whining – another sign of a stressed dog; often in combination with cowering, lack of appetite, reluctance to engage in playtime, or interaction with you or others.
Growling – the dog might become aggressive if under a lot of stress because they are in the outside kennel.
Chewing – your dog might start chewing on various items found in the kennel, or even try to break free. This is very dangerous as they might hurt themselves, or develop behaviors like pika, where they eat certain things that aren’t food.
It's not just about genetics! It also comes down to the temperament of your dog as well, so consider this when deciding if an outdoor kennel is a viable option.
Signs your dog may show that they are not enjoying their outdoor kennel include:
- Head tilting
- Jumping up
- Wag tail
- Destructive behavior
- Becoming withdrawn
- Fearful tendencies
History of Dogs Living in Outdoor Kennels
Throughout history, people have been divided on the subject of dogs living outside or inside, just as they are today. However, we go way back with our dogs. The first ever dog remains buried beside humans were dated back to more than 14,000 years ago and the evidence that they were buried together indicates that they were treated as family members.
Even thousands of years ago, we loved dogs with all our hearts. And throughout our long history, our relationship with dogs has evolved into something truly special. In a questionnaire that asked how dog owners see their pets, more than 50% answered that they see them as family members.
The dogs also thrive in this relationship: they are fed, sheltered, and cared for. Since dogs are pack animals, they are adaptive and know how to understand and respond to different individuals. They understand when you are happy, sad, or annoyed, and they know when they did something wrong. Taking good care of your dog is a natural response, a result of a relationship formed thousands of years ago. But how do outside kennels fit into this equation?
Historically, dogs usually served a purpose and would live as we did - if we were outside, they were, if we were inside they would come inside too. But, in many cases, dogs were there to guard and slept outside to protect entrances or land, but they were often allowed to roam and, in many cases, had a lot more land, with fewer dangers than they would see today.
Dogs didn't have to worry about meeting vehicles and not being seen at night, for example. But, it seems historically it came down to preference and the intention of the dog, whether or not they were "pets" or "working"
Science of Dogs Living in Outdoor Kennels
The science side says that as long as the dog thrives physically and mentally, they are well taken care of. However, whether your dog will thrive or not depends on a very big list of contributing factors, such as your dog’s breed, where you live, the climate, time of year, how you treat your dog, your dog’s age, health, and more.
The dog breed, for instance, plays a major role. A Siberian Husky will not enjoy the summer sun as much as a Border Collie. While most would yell “animal cruelty” at the prospect of letting your dog stay outside in the cold weather, your Siberian Husky will be most grateful, as they have evolved to live in harsh climates.
This doesn’t mean they don’t need shelter, of course, so make sure they have a good sleeping area that will keep them warm and dry. Such breeds will also be very thankful if you let them enjoy air conditioning during summer months together with you.
Scientifically there is nothing to stop outdoor kennels, so long as there are sufficient provisions and for some, heating, for others, air conditioning. It's not just simply black and white.
Training Dogs to Live in Outdoor Kennels
If you wish to keep your dog in an outside kennel, and your dog is well adapted to the weather conditions and doesn’t have issues with being outside, there are still some prerequisites that you need to take care of.
You have to give your dog time to adapt, whether you just brought them home or maybe you moved to a new place. Take the time to let your dog sniff out every corner and bring plenty of toys, blankets, and treats, so the dog doesn’t treat the outside kennel as a prison.
They should associate it with safety, and this can be achieved with treats, toys, blankets, a sheltered sleeping area, and of course, dedicating a lot of time to your dog.
Make sure to care well for your dog: even if they are outside, they will enjoy walks and interaction with you and other animals very much.
Safety Tips for Dogs Living in Outdoor Kennels:
In harsh weather conditions (e.g. extreme cold or heat), consider bringing your dog inside to acclimatize well, because even breeds that adapt to these conditions shouldn't have to struggle if they don't need to.
Avoid chaining your dog outside, instead opting to secure your garden, as a chain can restrict your dog and lead to behavioral issues. It can also threaten safety if they need to break free.